Make Working Out Work for You
It’s one thing to know the benefits of exercise and fitness. However, finding the time, motivation or energy to actually exercise can be another story.
Most experts agree that 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week is enough to reap the basic health benefits of fitness. What’s moderate? Walking, dancing, gardening, cycling, golf — just about any activity that raises your heart rate and gets your blood pumping without leaving you breathless and tired.
Want more out of exercise than basic fitness? You’ll need to put more into it. If your goal is to improve your fitness level, lose weight, or build muscle, you’ll need to boost your exercise intensity, frequency, or both.
Trying to lose weight? The 30-minute guideline may help you maintain your current weight, but to slim down you may need to extend your workouts to 45-60 minutes of sustained activity, five days a week. You’ll also burn more calories if you up the intensity; for example, try jogging a few blocks during your walk.
To get the greatest cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits, you need to exercise at a level that enables you to reach your target heart rate. Generally, this will require more vigorous physical activities, such as brisk walking, jogging, running, singles tennis and lap swimming.
Whatever your exercise goals, these tips can help you reach them.
- Choose activities you enjoy. Feel like a hamster on the treadmill? Try the elliptical trainer or cycle instead. Build your workouts around things you like to do, and they’ll become something to look forward to. And about those activities you dislike…don’t write them off forever. You may discover you love running when you do it on a woodsy trail instead of a treadmill.
- Mix it up. Even your favorite workout can become stale day in and day out. Add a few hills to your daily walk, or try a new activity. Not only does change help stave off boredom, it can give overused muscles a rest while waking up neglected ones.
- Use the buddy system. Studies have found that people who begin fitness programs with a friend are much more likely to hang in there than solo exercisers.
- Break it up. When 30 straight minutes of exercise just isn’t possible, try “chunking.” Three 10-minute sessions throughout the day can be as effective as a full 30-minute workout, and certainly more effective than skipping it due to lack of time.
- Make it a date. Schedule workouts into your day just as you would a lunch meeting or dentist appointment. By reserving time for exercise, you’ll be less likely to let something else get in the way.
- Set a goal. Having a goal such as finishing a 10K run or swimming a mile enhances a workout. A word of caution: increase your intensity gradually and only after you’ve adjusted to your current level.
- Get help. If you’ve hit a plateau, aren’t satisfied with your results or are just plain bored with your workout, a personal trainer can get you back on track.
- Don’t overdo it. You can get too much of a good thing. Excessive exercise or “overtraining” can lead to burnout, fatigue, even injury. Exercise should leave you energized, not exhausted. Make sure you allow yourself time to rest and recover.
Of course, if you’re new to exercise, it’s a good idea to talk to your physician about getting started. He or she can help you identify your goals and develop a plan to meet them.
- If you’re just starting an exercise program, schedule a check-up with your physician. For a referral to a Scripps physician, visit our doctor finder, or call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) for personal assistance.
- See our for healthy living classes.
- If your goal is to lose weight, make an appointment with a dietitian, or see our weight management program.